This is a topic that touches close to home. Maybe a little too close as I feel my fitness slip over the winter.  It also seems to be one of those training topics that is rarely covered thoroughly or accurately.

We are all getting older and we all know that our bodies change with age, but it is more than just our bodies that are changing – our entire lives are changing.   So when we consider how to train, especially when training the aging athlete, it is important to address the entire aging athlete: the bio-psycho-socio-physio and spiritual changes and the corresponding changes that should be made to our training plan.  In this 3 part series, I am going to address the three most common mistakes aging athletes make and how to fix them.

Mistake #1:  The 7 day work week.

I often hear aging athletes say “I don’t recover as fast.” The question is: Why don’t you recover as fast? Aging may be just a correlation rather than a cause of slower recovery. The reason we don’t recover as fast as we age is because we use the same basic training pattern we did when we were younger.  Then we blame our performance on our age rather than our training.  The good news is that if you modify your training for your age, you will both feel better and perform better.

Improving performance is a result of our bodies adapting to stress.  Once we adapt to a given stress, we need to add more healthy stress to see more improvement.  That additional stress comes in the form of longer training, more intense training or more training sessions. (Duration. Intensity. Repetition.)  Too many times we put the emphasis of adapting to stress on rest – when what we really need is more time training at a given level of stress before we increase the stress.

It takes a young athlete approximately 40 days (6 weeks) to fully adapt to a given stress.  It takes the aging athlete approximately 10 more days for every decade over the age of 35.  So a 55 year old may take 60 days to fully adapt to the same stress it took the young athlete only 40 days to adapt.

Yet we still try and force our training regimen into a 7-day work week.  Despite how easy it is to package our training into 1-week training cycles, the aging athlete needs to be more creative and develop a training plan based on a 10-day work week. This allows for more training overall, more training at a given stress, more rest between challenging training sessions and in the end more time for your body to fully adapt to a given stress before moving on to the next training load.  This simply means the aging athlete needs to increase the total volume of stress (repetition, duration and intensity) at a much slower rate than the younger counterpart.

As you can imagine, if we don’t adjust our stress according to our age this issue compounds itself leaving the aging athlete tired, frustrated and eventually sick or injured.  The 7-day work week has us increasing the stress before we are ready.

For example if you are training for a marathon, instead of running the long run every 7 days, run your long run every 10 days.  Or instead of increasing your total mileage 2 miles per week, only increase your miles 2 miles every 10 days.  Granted, it may take some creativity and a trainer willing to try something new. But I guarantee you will like the results.

You’ll feel better & perform better.

Next week – Mistake #2 Light Weight High Reps